Reporters to boycott president’s address to joint sitting

Published September 12, 2021
President Dr Arif Alvi addresses a joint session of parliament in this Aug 20, 2020 file photo. — White Star
President Dr Arif Alvi addresses a joint session of parliament in this Aug 20, 2020 file photo. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) on Satur­day announced boycotting the presidential address at the joint sitting of parliament on Sept 13 (Monday) in protest against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).

The decision was taken by the PRA’s executive body after reviewing the recommendations of the association’s walkout committee.

It was unanimously decided to walk out of the parliament during the president’s address.

“We hope that the unanimous decision of the PRA walkout and the democratic right to peaceful protest will not be sabotaged by the government,” the PRA said in a tweet.

The PRA said that it had received a request from the National Press Club for the boycott from the press gallery of the parliament during the address of the president on Sept 13.

The NPC had highlighted several issues faced by the journalists and against the proposed PMDA.

The other demands are payment of salaries to journalists, end of cuts made in the salaries of media personnel and arrest of persons accused of being involved in attacks on journalists.

The PRA’s walkout committee is chaired by Ms Nayyar Ali and its members are: Atif Butt, Imran Mukhtar, Tariq Aziz, Usman Khan, Naveed Butt, Waqar Syed, Saqib Virk and Sajid Farooq.

The committee unanimously recommended the walkout from the session on Monday.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is going to stage a historic sit-in outside Parliament House against the government plans to establish a new headquarter of censorship in the name of Pakistan Media Development Authority.

Meanwhile, PFUJ has appealed to the entire journalists’ community, civil society, human rights groups, trade unions, workers’ associations, students’ groups, digital rights advocates and citizens to join their sit-in outside Parliament House.

A statement issued by PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and general secretary Nasir Zaidi said, “We are appealing to all sections of media, civil society and concerned citizens from all walks of life to join and participate in the peaceful PFUJ dharna on the morning of September 13, 2021.”

PFUJ has announced that the sit-in camp will be established outside Parliament House on Sunday and its leaders will spend night in the camp till the conclusion of joint sitting of the parliament on Monday.

The statement said the sit-in is aimed at demonstrating solidarity and receving widespread support against the creation of PMDA and strategising the protection of the freedom of expression of citizens, defending the rights of journalists and pre-empting the planned assault on independent media in the country.

In another development federal Mi­­nister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government firmly believed in fundamental, democratic and constitutional rights of the freedom of expression and wanted to take all stakeholders on board to create consensus on the draft of PMDA.

During a meeting with British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner the minister said that PMDA was aimed to ensure a cohesive approach to media development and efficient management besides providing one-window operation to media practitioners and consumers.

He said that the government also wanted to streamline and ease the process for issuance of NOC of the film in order to give boost to film industry. He clarified that no criminal section was being included in the media development authority law. He said that protection, perseverance and promotion of the democratic values of freedom of expression and right to criticism were vital for any democratic and civilised society.

The minister said the idea was to streamline the regulatory functions of media at one forum as there were presently seven regulatory bodies related to media. He added that not only the media regulatory authorities were scattered, but there was also no regulatory framework for digital media. He highlighted the contents of PMDA to the British high commissioner.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2021

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